An ad featuring two Rottweiler dogs alongside the slogan “here’s two reasons we’ll get your rent on time” has been condemned as threatening by tenants advocates.
Pitched at landlords, the campaign by Victorian real estate agents Only features “Bruce and Gary”, two rescue dogs from animal welfare charity Starting Over Dog Rescue.
The now-deleted ad campaign became the subject of online criticism from renters and tenants advocates.
An infuriating ad from a Narre Warren REA. A lease is an amicable agreement by two parties, not a ransom. It is inappropriate to discriminate against renters in this way, and entirely unnecessary to approach these situations with intimidation and force. Badly done, Only RE! https://t.co/YYzRscz1Td
— Tenants Victoria (@TenantsUnionVic) September 16, 2018
“While I have nothing but love and affection for Rottweilers I cannot disagree more with the premise of this ad. Offensive,” one Twitter user wrote.
“A good agent makes sure the landlord understands their responsibilities and works with tenants who have problems,” another said.
The backlash prompted Only director Khalid Sarwari to issue an apology, while defending the ad as humorous and “tongue in cheek”.
Tenants Union of NSW senior policy officer Leo Patterson Ross condemned the ad as threatening to renters.
“It is essentially a threat against tenants to say that we don’t think tenants will pay their rent on time and so we will take an aggressive bullying approach to tenancy management,” he said.
“They said it was a joke. It just wasn’t funny. The message they were trying to sell was very much an anti-tenant message, and I think they were trying to attract a particular kind of landlord and attitude.”
Mr Patterson Ross said there was “quite deep irony” for a real estate agent to promote rescue dogs, as “anti-pet policies by real estate agents and landlords” make it much more difficult for rescue animals to find a home.
Tenants Victoria described the ad as “in poor taste” and “tone deaf”.
“The ad infers that the majority of renters don’t pay their rent on time or at all, whereas the portion of renters who end up in arrears is quite small,” a Tenants Victoria spokeswoman said.
“The majority of cases with rent in arrears the landlord and renter are able to come to an agreement. It’s really unnecessary to have an advertisement that infers that all renters are reluctant to pay their rent.”
The controversy comes in the wake of the passage of landmark rental reforms in Victoria’s state parliament that bolster renters rights by ensuring homes meet minimum basic living and safety standards, giving renters the right to own a pet, and outlawing rental bidding.
It also comes just over a week after the president of Australia’s peak real estate agent lobby group drew criticism for telling renters struggling to find affordable housing to “get two jobs”.
Nearly a third of Australians now rent – 31.3 per cent of the population in 2016 according to ABS statistics — and their calls for more rights and protections continue to grow.
Mr Patterson Ross said real estate agents across Australia “need to get on board with modern renting” and would do well to “be welcoming of progress rather than getting in the way”.
“It’s not a good look for the industry. It increasingly shows them to be out of touch with the rest of the community.”